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Odegbami: Eye on Tokyo 2020 – DAY 2

Odegbami: Eye on Tokyo 2020 – DAY 2

Funke Oshonaike became the first Nigerian athlete to exit competitions at the on-going Olympic Games. Ironically, not only is she the oldest, she is also the first female athlete to participate in 7 editions of the games. Unbelievable, but yes, this is her 7th Olympics.

The irony of her situation is that on the very day the Olympics of 2020 officially began, she exited. It was a painful experience for which she could not do anything. She was lined up to face a player from the tribe of those engrained with the DNA of table tennis, a Chinese American, who is half her age, and with an awkward left-handed tennis grip that she could not neutralise until the game was over. This was inspite of all her experience playing tennis for over 3 decades.

Funke had no chance against her as the evening of their match clearly showed. The nose is far from the eyes.

The match is not the interest here, but what transpired after. What happened? How did she handle the disappointment, the hurt and the pain?

Also Read – Odegbami: “Eye On Tokyo 2020”- Day One

The Olympics is a very exuberant place for athletes, particularly those that go farther in their competitions, and probably win something down the line. But it is actually also a very lonely place for athletes that fall out early, or painfully, as ‘The Eye’ found out yesterday after Funke’s journey in the competition that has taken 5 years of preparation shudderingly came to an end.


Funke Oshonaike


Nigeria’s table tennis team to Tokyo 2020

‘The Eye’ was hovering high up in the skies after her match and observed her lonely 2 hours wait for a bus (not the driverless ones in the Village) and another 30 minutes drive from the match venue to the Village. It was two and half hours of deep contemplation of what had happened and what could have been.

The absence of any crowd at the venue obviously could not have helped Funke that grew up and fed on the noise of large vociferous table tennis supporters in Lagos. It may have affected her psyche and her game, whilst boosting the confidence of the debuting Chinese lady. On the night, noticeably, Funke struggled for composure and strategy through the match on how to combat the left-handed Chinese that tormented her with spins, chops and smashes. The odds were stacked against her.

In the end, her only supporters were a few of her colleagues and coach Segun Toriola. Their feeble voices were drowned by the echo of the empty spaces in that gigantic but magnificent Hall.

‘The Eye’, an invisible drone hovering silently above, followed Funke outside the hall as she left, quietly and alone, her Olympic journey over before it even started.

Quietly, she walked into the fading evening for the longest ‘walk’ back to camp, to the Olympic Village that never sleeps. She waited outside the building housing the Nigerian contingent, watching athletes from other countries walk by, wondering if they knew what had hit her.

The world did not stop. Nobody was perturbed with whatever was going through the mind of this lonely Nigerian table tennis player. It must have been a humbling feeling.

Then she picked up her phone. She decided to take a selfie. She started to speak into her phone, recording for posterity what was going through her mind in this loneliest of moments.

Also Read – Odegbami: An Eye Over Tokyo 2020 – A Daily Diary Of The Olympics

” Ya, Funke Shonaike”, she spoke into the camera, soliloquising, her face masked, hiding away from the world.
“I just lost my match against this Chinese American lady. I really don’t know how to feel right now. I am outside here, alone. I don’t want to go inside my room, to think alone. I don’t know how to feel. In all, I am still very proud of myself. To be here to compete again is a really great privilege for me. To represent my country at this Olympics, at this age, for the 7th time, provides me many reasons to be grateful and happy, but it hurts to lose and I have to accept it. I am a sportswoman, and it is the same feeling for all of us. I don’t know what to think. I just want to thank all of those back home in Nigeria that have been supporting me through all these years. Thank you”.

She paused took a deep breath ànd added, “Funke, head up, head up”.


Funke Oshonaike and Offiong Edem

And it was finished. She got up and headed to the lift taking her to the 8th floor, into her room that she shares with Edem Offiong. It is a beautiful small apartment with beds made from recycled cardboard.

Edem is with Segun Toriola training for the last time, for her own match against a Hungarian Lady. Edem is determined to avenge her friend’s defeat.

Funke composes herself and returns to the hall to support Edem. Her friend plays brilliantly and wins her match against a Hungarian Lady convincingly.

As the Nigerian camp retires for the night on Day One of the Olympics, they do so with enough mixed emotions to do round the athletes for the night, ‘The Eye’ sights former President of the Nigeria Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Chief Solomon Ogba amongst those welcoming Edem Offiong back from her successful match.

She gives him a hug and requests that he comes again to her game with the same ‘lucky charm’ that he brought to her match earlier, so that she can keep winning for Nigeria.

At the Olympics even ‘the Eye’ can only follow one game, or one athlete, at a time. On Day One, it followed Funke Oshonaike.

Segun Odegbami

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  • Christian Harold Igboh 3 years ago

    It is well.

  • Dr. Drey 3 years ago

    Funke is participating in her 7th, yea….SEVENTH Olympics. That’s a whole 25 years after her 1st. So for 25 solid years, the production line of table tennis players from our sporting structures went dead and could not produce players who are good enough to best funke and qualify for the Olympics…? Even if funke was 10 years old when she competed at the 96 Olympics in Atlanta, by now she would be 36….36 is not even a ripe age for a female athlete, of which I am sure she wasnt 10 years old circa 96. While being a 7th time Olympian might be somewhat of a record, it only shows we haven’t been doing nothing to grow SPORTS on the homefront. The entire factory seems to be broken.

    Mr loquacious SPORTS minister, sit your damn ass down in your damn office and start working. You talk too much.

    • JimmyBall 3 years ago

      With the way Nigeria is structured and the attitude of people in Authority… I don’t see shit changing in sports for Nigeria… The Blackman can’t manage a decent society… We don’t have the discipline… and are too easily given to whims and personal biases…

      • Oakfield 3 years ago

        @jimmy…… Good morning. I thought u said blacks (domestic) hands can do the magic as well. Why the sudden change???? The truth hidden for a lifetime has popped up. It can’t be hidden.

        • JimmyBall 3 years ago

          @Oakfield… We obviously are not used to long term planning in our culture. That’s why everything good that we have runs down before long. It will shock the shit out of Nigerian ball fans to know that the Godswill Akpabio stadium turf we once hailed has become a patchment of uneven green and burnt brown… that turf is almost laughable now… Soon it will go the way of National Stadium Lagos and Abuja.

    • Dr Banks 3 years ago

      @Dr Drey I tire for 9ja sports administrators o. They are extremely lazy to unearth another budding talent to retire this old woman. Can you imagine that Funke is actually 45 yrs old, born in 1975 and has been competing in Olympics since 1996 without any medal to show till date, and yesterday she was beaten in her very 1st game. She needs to retire now and become a coach to bring on new talents in Table Tennis.

      • Dr. Drey 3 years ago

        @Dr. Banks….Funke is still playing for us today because there’s just no one to best her yet. A 45 year old is still our national champion. A 45 year old is still the one that meets qualification requirements for the Olympics. The best 2 female table tennis players in Nigeria today are ladies in their 40s who have been representing us since over 2 decades…Thats just the truth. If some small girls have been dumping them out of national championships at prelims or knock out stages for the last 5-10 years they would have long retired. I listened to an interview granted by Segun Toriola after the last commonwealths games (or was it the last Olympics), and he said without mincing words that he would have long retired if there were replacements….but is it the person that cannot beat him that will go and beat others at the global stage..?

        What is the NTTF doing…? What is the Sports Ministry doing. People just working in sports federations and in the ministry doing NOTHING for 2 decades….other than gossip at work and collect salaries at the end of them month…..led by the loud mouthed minister who would rather go interfering with super eagles training sessions and running is mouth everywhere in the media about another man who is doing his job and meeting his targets despite he and his players being owed years of emoluments, asking us to hold him to the terms of his contracts as if he hasn’t been meeting them before now. Its high time we also started holding our sports officials beginning with the SPORTS Minister to the terms of their own offices too. For heaven’s sake how can we not be able produce anyone else apart from Funke and Offiong for 2 decades. That’s rather shameful. Those 2 ladies should probably be the oldest table tennis players at this Olympics.

        • Chris 3 years ago

          Another Dr.Drey classic. Sports Minister should be doing that ‘focus’ dance step.

  • pompei 3 years ago

    Lool Dr Drey, hard hitting comment there.
    But wait ooo, shebi we get Nigerian born Chinese pipo. Chinese Nigerians. Dem dey na. Dem plenty sef. Make we use dem too na, the same way the US has been using their own.
    Imagine a Nigerian named XIAPING HUANG winning us a medal at the Olympics. They say all is fair in war. We better do the needful.

  • Simply put, tis shows how deeply the rot on grassroots sports has fallen. We do not breed/groom/develop/train the future of sports no matter the discipline within Nigeria.

    Look at Football, we have failed to make a mark on the world stage AT ANY LEVEL since 2015. From winning U17 cups back to back to failing to qualify in 2017 to a first round exit in 2019. We have not fared much better in the U20 and failed to qualify with U23 (Olympics).
    With the Nigerian cup (AITEO) the first round state qualifiers were SELECTED, that means no chance for grass roots players to compete against established players and a whole swathe of players (lets say 10 teams per state – 230 players per state – over 8,000 players) nationwide, with a brush of a pen denied the opportunity to shine. How then do we select the best the country has to offer if we give the slot to established “heritage” clubs?

    We are now scouring the globe for Super eagles/Super Falcons. Ditto basketball players, male and female because, guess what? There has been no basketball league since 2017 in Nigeria.

    I am sure this is also what is affecting table tennis, athletics, and every other discipline in our domestic sports. Either give the established players a fast track to qualify regardless of whether they are the best available or seek an option abroad.

    Grassroots? What grassroots? Sports is dead in Nigeria and we are just flogging it the same way we flog a dead horse. A few moments for the camera then back to looking for the easiest option

  • Prince 3 years ago

    In the past Olympics, Nigerians do compete honourably in Football, Athletics, Wrestling, Boxing, Weightlifting, Judo and Table Tennis…and win medals !!!


    Let’s accept this concept and let it sink in!!!

    The Big “Tree” fell long time ago and has gradually rot to manure!!!

    Our Sport ministry is just like any other ministries in the nation….Lack of vision, lack of growth!!!

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